I met with an upset Citizen this week that couldn’t believe the City wacked her shrubs along the alley. I could understand why she was upset and apologized for what happen. Then I explained why we are doing the clearing. The City maintains an alley right of way to allow for things like snow removal, garbage collection, utility company maintenance, and fire protection services.
The standard alley right of way is 20 feet. It usually falls 10 feet on either side of the alley, but anyone can drive around Morris and see that the alleys are nowhere near 20 feet wide and in some cases are not straight.
You can get a good idea of where 20 feet might be by looking at the driveway going into the alley from the street. If you stand on one edge of the driveway and look down the alley, you will notice that the gravel probably doesn’t come out that far, and in most cases, there are many things in the way. Trees, shrubs, garbage can racks, garages and many other things.
You might ask what the big deal is and I have to redirect you back to the beginning of the blog. The alley provides access for things like snow removal, garbage collection, utility company maintenance, and fire protection services. All of these require large pieces of equipment. In the case of electric power, you may notice poles in your alley. Utility companies typically place poles at the edge of the right of way to leave room to drive on the alley. Step off 20 feet from a power pole to the other side of the alley and see what that looks like. Also, look and see if any trees or shrubs are growing into the power lines. This is another common problem we see.
City zoning rules allow property owners to put in things like fences, shrubs and trees, but it has to be done on private property, not on the right of way. In many cases, we are seeing shrubs and trees outside of fences. I’m pretty confident that most fences are on private property. I’m also pretty confident that most fences are near the property line. It follows in logic then that anything outside the fence is probably on a right of way of some type.
I’ve been asked why the City hasn’t notified individuals before clearing the right of way. The easy answer may be that we don’t have to notify anyone about activities in the right of way, but that isn’t the case. The answer is that it would be very time consuming to identify all the properties that have issues, find out who the owners are and then send a notice to each owner. This Blog is being written to help inform people about what we are doing and why. I’ve also discussed this several times at the City Council meetings. I’ve also talked about it on the radio.
We are trying to provide the best service possible and maintaining the proper alley rights of way is a critical part of that process. If every Citizen would make sure that things are kept away from the alley, then our job would be much easier. Also, in the winter, it is very important that we have enough room to plow snow off to the side. If not, then the alleys can’t be used properly.